Rat Race

2001, Movie, PG-13, 112 mins


Some people apparently regard the cow-hanging-from-the-helicopter sequence in LAKE PLACID (1999) as a sight gag on par with Harold Lloyd dangling from the hands of a clock in SAFETY LAST (1923). They'll love AIRPLANE! (1980) co-auteur Jerry Zucker's latest laff-fest: Zucker even ups the ante by attaching the hapless bovine to a hot air balloon and smacking her into the windshield of a bus. Others will find this scattershot (and shamefully unacknowledged) remake of 1963's IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD a hit-or-miss comedic proposition. The set-up contains the ingredients of a classic farce: Eleven strangers are brought together by Trump-like billionaire David Sinclair (John Cleese, who ups the laugh quotient considerably whenever he appears on screen) who tells them he's stashed two million dollars in a locker in New Mexico, that the first person to get there can keep it, and there are no rules whatsoever in the pursuit of the swag. Faster than you can say, "Greed is good," they're off, none of them realizing that Cleese is monitoring them, along with a bunch of high rollers taking bets on the winner. Not surprisingly, the contestants are the usual multicultural suspects, including every-guy Nick (unthreateningly appealing Breckin Meyer), romantically troubled helicopter pilot Tracy (Amy Smart), narcoleptic Italian tourist Enrico Pollini (Rowan Atkinson, using the most bogus Neapolitan accent since Chico Marx), dim-bulb Gen-Y con men Duane and Blaine Cody (Seth Green, Vince Vieluf), NFL referee Owen Templeton (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who's famous for a world-class bonehead coin-toss call, and hapless Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz), who's saddled with an equally hapless wife (Kathy Najimy) and two obnoxious kids. Also not surprisingly, mucho wackiness ensues, although for every inspired bit — Templeton playing chauffeur to 40 I Love Lucy-era Lucille Ball impersonators — there's one that falls spectacularly flat, like Duane's visit to a monster truck rally. Lovitz more or less runs away with the film: Not only does he figure in the most inspired on-the-road sequence (without revealing too much, it involves a town car once owned by Adolph Hitler) but he also gets to deliver by far the best line. Trying to convince his kids that it would in their interest if he snagged two million bucks, he tells them, "That's a year's supply of hummus!" At the very least. leave a comment --Steve Simels

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